How realistic is the idea of dismantling Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal?


Originally posted on National Post | News:

The Russian proposal to remove Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons arsenal has raised a raft of questions for politicians and disarmament experts alike. Damien McElroy answers some of them:

Does the outside world have an accurate picture of Syria’s chemical weapons?

Syria is believed to have large stocks of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agents. Paul Ingram, the executive director of the disarmament think-tank BASIC, points out that estimates of the extent of its arsenal varies widely among Western intelligence agencies, but experts believe it runs into the hundred of tons.

What is the current status of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal?

Syria has never signed a global treaty banning the storage of chemical weapons but the actual use of chemical weapons is banned by a 1925 treaty to which Damascus is a signatory. Damascus has never given an inventory of its stockpile. Any list that it is likely to produce…

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The immoral, silent killer: Why chemical warfare instills in people a fear that conventional attacks do not


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Warning: Disturbing Images

In little more than two years, the Syrian civil war has distinguished itself as a particularly vicious conflict.

The United Nations estimates conservatively that more than 100,000 people have died, including thousands of women and children, with civilians often directly targeted or killed in indiscriminate assaults.

The Assad regime has deployed an array of nasty weapons, from cluster bombs to napalm-like incendiary devices and thermobaric explosives, whose blast of pressure and heat incinerates anyone at the impact site — and vacuums the air out of the lungs of people nearby.

AP Photo/SANA

AP Photo/SANA

Yet it was a singular event just last week that rallied the West into its most concerted response yet to the hostilities. Only after the Aug. 21 attack with suspected nerve gas, killing an estimated 350 to 1,400 men, women and children, did the U.S. and others talk seriously — for better or worse —…

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Secretary of State cites citizen media reports from Syria in criticism of attack


Originally posted on Gigaom:

A large number of videos, photos and graphic descriptions of chemical-weapon attacks on civilians have been coming out of Syria over the past day, and it is clear they have made an impact not just on those observing the violence from afar but also on U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who cited them in a statement about the attack on Monday. Said Kerry:

Last night, after speaking with foreign ministers from around the world about the gravity of this situation, I went back and I watched the videos — the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the the human suffering that they lay out before us.

As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing while…

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U.K. prepping warships as West eyes strike on Syria in wake of suspected chemical attack


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Britain is planning to join forces with America and launch military action against Syria within days in response to the gas attack believed to have been carried out by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces against his own people.

British Royal Navy vessels are being readied to take part in a possible series of cruise missile strikes, alongside the United States, as military commanders finalize a list of potential targets.

Government sources said talks between Prime Minister David Cameron and international leaders, including Barack Obama, would continue but that any military action that was agreed could begin within the next week.

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird joined other western leaders in applying more pressure on Syria on Sunday, with a call for Syrian authorities to allow the United Nations immediate and unfettered access to the site of last week’s alleged chemical attack.

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

Officials in Baird’s office said he…

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Maher al-Assad accused of orchestrating deadly chemical weapon attack


Originally posted on National Post | News:

Maher al-Assad, the brother of President Bashar al-Assad, has long been a feared figure within the regime. Violent, fiery and quick tempered, as commander of the 10,000-strong Republican Guard and the Fourth Armoured Division, he has been at the heart of some of the most bloody episodes in Syria’s two and a half year civil war.

But allegations over the weekend by an Israeli television channel that he was behind the chemical weapons attack have turned him from a figure of fear into one of loathing. Activists claim that much of the shelling originated from the huge base of the Fourth Armoured Division, just south of Damascus. The regime claims that rebels had used chemicals.

But Maher Assad is well known for his ruthlessness.

AP Photo/Shaam News Network

AP Photo/Shaam News Network

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National Post Graphics

National Post Graphics

Trained at the Damascus military academy alongside his elder brother and heir to the presidency, Bassel, Mahar…

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